Sunday, September 22, 2013

The amazing history of chemical weapons use in Syria

According to an absolutely fascinating article at the Discovery.com website, the first known use of chemical weapons occurred in Syria in the 3rd century AD.  Troops of the Sasanian Persian empire attacked a Roman stronghold in Syria.  Part of their attack strategy involved tunneling under the walls of the Roman fort:
In the 1930s, archaeologists unearthed dramatic evidence of the fight. In one of the tunnels, a pile of bodies, still completely fitted with their weapons and armour, testified to the horrors of the battle.  At the time, the researchers believed the trapped Roman soldiers had died after the tunnel collapsed. But according to James, residue of pitch (a resinous substance) and yellow sulfur crystals found in a jar lying near the bodies indicated a much more gruesome reality.  Indeed, the Sasanians placed fire pits strategically throughout the tunnel, and when the Romans broke through, they gassed them by adding sulfur crystals and bitumen to the fire.
Really an amazing story and worth the time to digest it.[ht: realclearhistory.com]